“Where are we going to have lunch?” I asked my housemate Julian, as we stepped off the bus.
The question was framed in my usual schoolgirl Spanish.
“Um, I need to tell you something about the way you speak Spanish,” he replied, ignoring what was clearly an important question.
“Okay,” I groaned. Julian is adept at correcting my frequent grammatical mistakes and is currently leading a one-man campaign to force me to use the past tense.
“Um, well, when you speak Spanish, you speak really girlie,” he continued.
“You speak like you’re a little girl who needs help and protection. It’s really soft. Completely different to the way you speak English.”
“WHAT?” I exploded.
“It’s true,” he said, looking faintly alarmed.
“But don’t worry. You’re not the only person I know who has that problem.
“My old landlady in Canada was this really strong, fierce woman, but when she spoke Spanish she sounded like a damsel in distress.
“It was really weird.”
I barely spoke for the rest of the afternoon.
The following day I went to a friend’s flat in a posh area of Bogotá. It was so posh I couldn’t find the elevator and, worse, I couldn’t remember the Spanish word for it.
I had a quick chat with the doorman, trying to explain what I wanted. Eventually he not only located the lift but accompanied me three storeys to my friend’s floor.
“Did I just hear you flirting with my doorman?” my friend demanded as he opened the door, looking faintly disgusted.
Later I went to the chocolaterie with my friends Cesar and Angelica. I was cultivating a mildly bad mood.
“Julian says I speak Spanish like a little girl,” I complained as we poured over the extensive hot chocolate menu.
“Yeah, you do,” Cesar replied, without looking up.
“Don’t worry, it’s kinda cute.”
I was definitely sulking when I went to the gym that evening.
Juan, who is tall, dark and hardly unattractive, was on the reception desk as usual.
“Good evening Victoria, how are you?” he beamed.
“I’m fine, thank you,” I snapped, speaking in English despite his obvious confusion.
You can’t be too careful.